There aren’t many adults in the world who would think that the Creator of the universe would show up in a bare, basement classroom full of third graders busy with word searches, crosswords and crafts. In fact, most of us would dismiss the notion as silly, and if we wanted to find God we wouldn’t look here.
But what if God did show up? How would we know? Jesus after all told His disciples in His Farewell Discourse not long before His execution, “The Helper, The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things.”
I posed this same question to my class today, though in a different context. I asked them about the story they’d heard earlier in the morning. I asked, “What does it mean the veil was torn when Jesus died?” One by one the hands raised and with each answer I silently marveled at their knowledge of scripture and sound doctrine. I pressed to see if this age grasped the larger metaphor. I asked, “Is there a veil between us and God – still? Can you see Him?” Heads began to shake no. I pressed further. “If we can’t see Him, how do we know He’s real?”
In the next moment, one “camper” named Luke, the one who did not speak Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday; the one who sat alone, content and off to the side; and the one who gladly swept the floors every day before we left the classroom raised his hand and asked, “Can I tell a story?”
Hiding behind one red bandana he tied over his forehead, and a second tied over his mouth and with only his eyes visible Luke said this: “I once prayed to God to ask Him if He was real or not. I wanted to know because I didn’t think He was, because I couldn’t see Him. Then, my little brother drowned in a pool. He was two years old. My mom tried to bring him back to life. He wasn’t breathing. He was blue. I watched the whole thing. After awhile, he finally started to breath again and my mom asked, “Are you ok?” and he said, “The purple King saved me.” Now,” Luke said, “Now I know God is real.” No one said anything. Seventeen third graders sat in silence and stared at Luke as I held my hand over my mouth and held back tears. The Helper was in the room.
I asked the students if they knew about the disciple Thomas. A few started to frantically search their Bibles. One little girl shouted, “I found it!” and she began to read: “Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” “Luke, you are Thomas,” I said. “The Lord answers our prayers.”
Earlier in the week we were trying to figure out how to remember to turn to prayer, read the bible and ask for the Holy Spirit when things go wrong in life. I taught the students about anagrams. We needed to remember the words prayer, bible, and holy spirit. The students came up with the phrase “peanut butter ham sandwich.”
How do you know when God shows up? God uses the least among us to teach about the greatest story ever told because maybe then and only then we’ll notice, and listen. Quiet Luke taught us the Purple King is real and because of his story every single one of us in that room will remember when things go wrong in life to eat nothing else but a peanut butter ham sandwich.
After all, man does not live on bread alone.